Archive for the ‘Connectivity’ Category

Battery Life

November 19, 2014 Leave a comment

In the last couple of days, I’ve had the awkward experience of my iPhone only lasting about two hours on a full charge.  The degradation of the battery life wasn’t problematic until I attended a seminar.  During seminars, I typically tweet and check emails, etc.  However, with a smartphone that I could visibly see the battery life trickling down, I suddenly found myself reenacting the Samsung “Wall Hugger” commercial where I was searching for and huddled around those precious power outlets.

I suppose what has been most surprising with this battery life issue, is the realization how often I use my smartphone, or more precisely how frantic I feel when the device has no juice left to operate.  I now find myself ensuring I have a charger, cable, car adapter, and fully charged battery-charger stowed away in my backpack.  Curious how complicated life has become, just because my smartphone battery drains quickly.  At some point, this device that has been such a useful tool, has suddenly become resource intensive.

The experience begs the question, what else am I doing, which once fell into the useful bucket, but has since transitioned into the “too much trouble” bucket?


Universities know BYOD

September 8, 2013 Leave a comment

In July 2013, Acronis released the results of a study which highlighted that 60% of companies “had no personal device policy in place” and 80% of organizations “haven’t educated employees on BYOD privacy risks”.  BYOD or Bring Your Own Device, is a phenomenon, where employees want to use their own personal devices (such as smartphones, tablets, or laptops) for business purposes and to access business data resources.

Later this month, I have the opportunity to speak to attendees of the IT Roadmap Conference & Expo when it makes a stop in Dallas/Fort Worth.  I will be speaking on the topic of Mobility & BYOD, and as I told the folks who were vetting me for this speaking engagement, BYOD is old hat for higher education IT departments.  I made this statement, because universities have been dealing with students bring their own devices to campus , since universities began providing network connectivity in residence halls.  In a August 2013, CITE World (Consumerizaiton of IT in the Enteprise) article titled “Want BYOD advice? Talk to a university IT department,” my position was affirmed by Mike Corn, chief privacy and security officer at the University of Illinois (UI) at Urbana-Champaign.

However, Mr Corn concedes that higher education institutions and corporations aren’t necessarily an apples-to-apples comparison.  While I’ll agree that universities don’t have the same regulatory requirements as some corporations, I believe we all are wrestling with ways to intentionally leverage personal owned mobile computing devices for business purposes.  For universities, the business purpose is educating students, and many institutions struggle to understand how mobile devices can be used in meaningful ways to enhance the academic success of their students.  In my opinion, BYOD isn’t about the devices accessing networks.  The center of the conversation is about business processes and how these devices can be intentionally engaged to enable business professionals or students to be effective and productive.  This concern is an apples-to-apples comparison, and many universities have made significant strides to engage personally owned devices into teaching and learning.  For this reason, I am a believer that higher education has some expertise related to the BYOD strategies.


February 9, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve been thinking about this disruption that mobility offers, more specifically about whether or not individuals need multiple computing devices.  With the tablets gaining traction thanks to affordable price points, and synching technologies that mare positioned to make your data ever more accessible, I wonder whether or not we are observing a shift in the computing platforms and as such a reduction in the number of platforms that each individual owns.

To satisfy this curiosity, I turned to data collected from the Network Control System for my university.  This system has over 16,000 unique devices that are registered to over 5,000 users.  This suggests that the average person has three devices registered in this system.  But what it doesn’t say is what these devices are.  So I drilled down deeper, to get a better since of what the distribution of devices per user is.  Looking at the number of actual devices registered per user reveals …

  • 21% of the users only have one device registered
  • 38% of the users have two devices registered
  • 24% of the users have three devices registered
  • 17% of the users have four or more devices registered

Drilling even further I identified that of those users who have only one device registered, 29% of these devices are laptops, but 37% are mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets.  This is pretty interesting.

However when we look at the group of users who have registered two devices, 76% of these users have registered an iPhone and a laptop.  When we look at the group that have registered three devices, 85% of these users have an iPhone and a laptop included in this three device total.  So what do these numbers tell us?

For me it suggests that we are not yet at a point that we can condense our computing platform to a single device.  Even though smartphone manufactures have devised methods to decrease the dependencies of tethering smartphones to laptops, the average user recognizes that each platform has unique strengths and weaknesses.  So while we may be able to disconnect our smartphones or tablets from our laptops, it appears that we still need each for different purposes or reasons.


February 3, 2012 Leave a comment


Yesterday I ran across the following article that unpacks the results of a TripAdvisor survey revealing that WiFi or Wireless Broadband connectivity is the top amenity that travelers are looking for when booking a hotel.  In fact, WiFi outranked amenities such as Breakfast, Loyalty programs, an onsite restaurant, and airport shuttle service.

In the Fall of 2011, Educause released the an Info Graphic that details the results of their 2011 National Survey of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology.  In this Info Graphic, I found interesting that 78% of undergraduate students reported that WiFi was “extremely valuable” to their academic success.  WiFi was second to a laptop computer.

I would agree that WiFi connectivity is something I look for when I’m traveling, especially when traveling overseas, so I’m not surprised by the data from the TripAdvisor survey.  However the statistic from Educause did surprise me.   As a technologist who helped to launch WiFi services at my institution, I don’t think we ever expected it to be primary connectivity choice.  Back in 1999, I installed WiFi in our college library thanks to a state grant.  Immediately we identified several limitations, especially when a group of staff members started attempting to download large files over the wireless network.

While “speeds and feeds” have improved with various versions of WiFi over the years, I still recognize that this is a shared network medium, which essentially means that the available bandwidth from an access point is shared by all the devices associated with this access point.  This is different from modern wired network connections, which offers dedicated bandwidth to the devices “plugged in” or connected to these wired ports.  But at some point the convenience of wireless connectivity has overshadowed the benefits of dedicated bandwidth.  In fact, I’m seeing is that less than 25% of the wired ports in our Residence Halls are actively used.  I’ve also observed that 96% of the DHCP offer and renew events on an average day, at our campus, are associated with the wireless network.

So maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by the expectations surrounding WiFi connectivity.  Given the fact fewer cellular carrier are offering unlimited data plans, I recognize that tech-savvy customers are more mindful of where they can attach to WiFi networks.


October 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Several weeks ago I received an inquiry from an industry magazine editor regarding my observations of wireless local area network clients that operate on the 2.4GHz band versus the 5.8GHz band.  The editor commented that he was working up an article, because he had heard several people comment about the struggles associated with the amount of congestion on the lower, 2.4Ghz, band.  In previous email exchanges with this editor, I too had commented that because of decisions by wifi device manufactures, my team had to deal with the limitations associated with the 2.4GHz band.

When I received the inquiry, my first inclination was to validate my own assumptions.  So I chose to pull some numbers.  Thankfully, I had already initiated a process where I was pulling metrics from our wireless network system to get a better sense of how the institutions system was being utilized.  This process proved to be valuable in responding to the editors request for comment.  With quantified data, I could offer an informed opinion and then provide some data points that illustrate that opinion.

The article came out earlier this week, and then was picked up by Slashdot.  At this point I started getting emails from colleagues who saw the Slashdot excerpt.  Curious, I checked out the Slashdot site and started reading the comments associated with the excerpt.  It struck me as odd to see the number of folks who were questioning the data I had referenced.  Some challenged that based on the number of students enrolled at the institution, the numbers were inflated.  Others obviously put pen to paper, and determined that there were errors in the arithmetic.

I know when I see numbers flying off the page or a screen, I too question their validity.  Understanding the methodology and/or context provides a deeper meaning.    One comment from the Slashdot suggested that based on the number of connections sited, the enrollment of the university sited on the website, and making an erroneous assumption of the number of faculty and staff, that the math works out to 47 connection per user per day.  Unfortunately it isn’t that simple.  My own numbers indicated we see 6,100 unique MAC addresses connecting to our wireless a day.  Because of the characteristics differences between wifi clients, we see that laptops account for 4% of the daily connections while iPhones and iPod Touches account for 51% of the daily connections.  My own opinion this speaks to the functionality of these different types of devices.  A laptop connects when you open he clam shell and stays connected until you close the clam shell.  Typically these connections are sustain for much longer than a mobile device, because with a mobile device you pull it out and it connects to wireless as you check your email, facebook, calender, etc.  The duration of this activity is only sustained for a couple of minutes, and then the mobile device is shuffled into a pocket, holster, etc.

For me the numbers are important.  It provides me the confidence to talk about the topic of wireless network connectivity or more specifically the challenges of mobile connectivity.  It enables me to provide illustrations and challenges to be think through the rational for why we are seeing certain patterns.  Numbers by themselves may be informative, but grasping the story the numbers tell, in my opinion is where the real strength lies.

The Challenges of Mobile Connectivity

February 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Next week, I am scheduled to moderate a panel discussion on the “Challenges of Mobile Connectivity” at the ACU Connected Summit 2011.  Much of this conference is focused on digital media, the future of the book, and how mobile devices can be effectively integrated into education.  At the same time, the conference organizers have recognized that many logistical and infrastructure hurdles need to be cleared in order for applications and devices to be used purposefully.  One of these hurdles is mobile connectivity.

My own personal goals for this panel discussion includes a desire to address key points such as …

  • The importance of Wireless Data networking (WiFi) when many mobile devices have cellular data connectivity
  • Mobile Connectivity isn’t necessarily the same as connectivity for laptops
  • Not all mobile devices are created equally from a wireless networking standpoint
  • Applications and device usage are important considerations when designing mobile connectivity
  • Balancing security and ease of access isn’t always easy
  • More doesn’t mean better … scaling isn’t an exact science

When I talk with other folks about wireless data networking, I’m often amused how little thought goes into what is attempted to be accomplished.  Number of users, applications to be used, or even spaces to be covered aren’t necessarily on everyone’s minds when discussing wireless data networking.  I concede that thanks to consumer adoption of wireless networking gear, it appears that throwing up a wireless data network is as simple as “plug and play”.  Unfortunately the battle cry, “I just want it to work” is about as explicit as when I tell my barber, “Just make me look good.”

If the opportunity avails itself, I welcome you to join me at this conference.  If not, I welcome your input and thoughts on what are some of the challenges with mobile connectivity.